"Seeing change occur provides great motivation to continue my work and push the boundaries even more."
Anna Ross, 2016’s Telstra Young Business Woman of the Year, hasn’t wasted any time becoming a gamechanger in the cosmetics industry. Anna kick-started her career in fashion as a design assistant, before channeling her love for design and her strong social and environmental values into Kester Black, a Melbourne-based beauty brand that is setting new standards in ethical business through the most unlikely of products.
Tell us a little about your current work - what do you do, and what inspires you to do it?
I am the founder and director of Kester Black, a Melbourne-based ethical beauty brand. We make vegan, cruelty-free nail polish which has a positive social and environmental impact. I love what I do because the beauty industry is one that has room for significant improvement, and having the opportunity to make a real difference is very exciting for me. Seeing change occur provides great motivation to continue my work and push the boundaries even more.
How does your work enrich your life or the lives of others?
We provide an ethical option which allows previously excluded groups of people (e.g. vegans and Muslims) to have the same choice as others. Our impact on the community is a positive one, through raising awareness around the impact of consumer choices and donating 2% of our revenue to our chosen charity partners.
Can you share a recent project you’ve worked on that you’re most proud of?
Each December we work with a disadvantaged group of people from our community and last Christmas we donated $30,000 worth of personal care products for women in need.
What was the pivot point that set you on your current path?
I was working in the fashion industry as a design assistant, while at the same time running my own jewelry brand. I decided I would like to make nail polish to sell alongside our jewellery range, but after looking into the industry and seeing its flaws, I decided to put all of my energy into leading a change within it. As soon as Kester Black began to offer this product, our turnover tripled in the space of three months, with only six colours. We now have a range of over sixty colours with in excess of 300 stores in over twelve countries.
What advice would you give to others to identify and embrace those moments of action?
If you’re going to make a new product or service, be sure that yours is going to be better than what’s already available. The world doesn’t need another sub-par candle brand. You need to love what you do because running a small business takes a lot of time and energy, so there’s no point pouring time and effort into something you don’t enjoy and don’t believe in. And finally don’t wait until you’re ready, because you’ll never be ready.
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give someone who’s going through their own transformation?
Trusting your instinct and backing yourself is vital, as even people you love might not be able to fully grasp what you’re trying to do. Advice givers always have the best intentions, but without understanding the situation fully, they may not be giving you the most helpful advice.
Who or what has been your biggest inspiration in shaping your career?
I always struggle with this question because I don’t have an answer. Seeing my parents worry about money drove me to try to be financially stable from an early age. I have managed to build Kester Black to where it is today on my own but have recently discovered the value of having consultants advise us.
Where in the world would you describe as the place that speaks to you - your soul place?
St Kester Bay in the Marlborough Sounds of New Zealand. I used to holiday here with friends and it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world. Its name, in conjunction with a bizarre experience of priests in black robes appearing from the bushes one day, provided the inspiration for the Kester Black name.
If you could do anything, what in the world would you want to do next?
Rescue animals or help young people overcome the challenges they are facing which contribute to suicide and depression.
All images used with permission from Anna Ross.